Yohji Yamamoto is widely regarded as ranking among the greatest fashion designers of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. He is one of the few in his profession who have successfully broken the boundaries between commodity and art, by creating clothing that ranges from basics like athletic shoes and denim jeans to couture-inspired gowns that are nothing short of malleable mobile sculptures. Lauded as a blend of master craftsman and philosophical dreamer, Yamamoto has balanced the seemingly incompatible extremes of fashion's competing scales.
Inspiration from the intangible, mainly images of historical dress from sources such as photographs, has been a mainstay in Yamamoto's work. The crumpled collar in an August Sander portrait, the gauzy dresses captured by Jacques-Henri Lartigue while vacationing on the Riviera, and the gritty realism of Françoise Huguier's travels among the Inuit of the Arctic Circle are but a few examples. It is not surprising that the riveting catalogs created for each of Yamamoto's high-end ready-to-wear women's collections have included the work of such notable photographers as Nick Knight, Paolo Roversi, Inez van Lamsweerde, and Vinoodh Matadin. Whether Yamamoto is evoking historicism via the ancien régime or the belle epoque, or ethnic garments made of richly woven silks and woolens, he has come to epitomize the vast range of creative possibilities in the art of dress.